Guilty: Steel-toe thug who murdered Leeds sex worker Daria Pionko had form for robbery

A STEEL toecapped boot-wearing robber has been found guilty of murdering a sex worker in a managed red light area close to Leeds city centre.

Monday, 4th July 2016, 4:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:59 pm
Lewis Pierre has been found guilty of murdering Daria Pionko.

Daria Pionko was left bloodied and battered in a secluded area of Holbeck after suffering multiple injuries to her face, head, neck and body.

Leeds Crown Court heard Lewis Pierre, 24, wore steel toecap boots when he inflicted injuries on the 21-year-old Polish woman.

The jury was told Pierre stole cash from Miss Pionko during the attack on December 22 last year before using it to buy himself a kebab and chips.

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Victim Daria Pionko.

Pierre, of Miles Hill Street, Meanwood, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery but denied murder.

Today it took the 10 women and two men on the jury less than two hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict on that charge.

Members of Ms Pionko’s family, who had been following the proceedings through an interpreter, broke down as the verdict was read out.

Pierre, who initially had his head in hands, stormed out of the dock and back to the cells as Mr Justice James Goss said his sentencing would take place tomorrow.

Flowers left at the memorial service for Daria Pionko was found on Springwell Road, Holbeck. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

The judge told jurors: “He will obviously be sentenced to life imprisonment but I have to fix the minimum term.”

The court then heard that Pierre had previous convictions for battery and robbery.

Ms Pionko had been living in the UK for 10 months before her death and lived with her boyfriend in Armley. Her family knew nothing of her involvement with sex work and believed she was working in bar.

Kama Melly, QC, prosecuting, earlier told the court that the killing took place in a “managed red light area.”

Victim Daria Pionko.

She said: “It is an arrangement with Leeds City Council that within set hours during the night-time, within a very specific area, that is not a residential area, that neither the sex workers nor the customers who went there for sex would be arrested.”

Ms Pionko had gone to work there along with a friend at around 8pm on the night of the attack.

Nothing out of the ordinary had happened and at around 11pm the two friends separated. When Ms Pionko had not returned to their usual meeting point by 11.35pm, her friend set off to look for her.

At around 1am, the friend found Ms Pionko’s badly beaten on Springwell Road.

Flowers left at the memorial service for Daria Pionko was found on Springwell Road, Holbeck. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

A post mortem examination revealed she had suffered fractures to her nose and facial bones. She also suffered bruising to her brain and deep bruising and scratches to her face and upper body.

The jury was told that the scratches to Ms Pionko’s body indicated she was attacked while on the ground and injuries were “heavily suggestive” of Pierre using his feet in the attack.

Ms Pionko’s blood was later found on a pair of steel toecap boots and a cardigan found by police at Pierre’s home.

The court heard Pierre had been working as a lorry driver’s mate for a distribution firm based in Holbeck.

He had arrived for work earlier in the day with no money and completed his shift without having anything to eat or drink.

CCTV footage showed Pierre entering the area where Ms Pionko was attacked shortly after he finished his shift at 10pm.

Miss Melly said: “At this stage Lewis Pierre had no money, he had set off from working, having done a full day’s shift, working hard and was extraordinarily tired, thirsty and hungry. It is the prosecution’s case that he was determined to obtain some money that night.”

Jurors heard Pierre thought Ms Pionko would have money on her, so he went with her to a secluded area under the pretence of being a client.

He punched Ms Pionko in “quick succession” to the face and head area after she began to struggle when he grabbed her handbag.

He hit her repeatedly before wrestling the bag from her and stealing £80 in cash.

Pierre said that Ms Pionko was saying something and propping herself up as he left.

He was later given a lift to a takeaway and bought a kebab and chips and drinks with the money he had taken in the robbery. He then went to a petrol station to buy cigarettes.

Pierre was arrested at Hartshead Moor services on New Year’s Eve.

When told he was suspected of Ms Pionko’s murder, he asked if he would be kept in custody all night. He made no comment during the police interviews which followed.